Coffee heat rising

Wages of Sin: Update

So after class this noon I schlepped over to the Social Security Administration offices with several missions in mind: First to find out what they’re going to do to me for the crime of earning yet another $2,400 over the poverty-level earned income limitation; second, to ask where to mail the Form SS-31 to ensure that this year’s RASL payment is counted as pre-2010 income; and third, to find out what to do with the couple hundred bucks that Unemployment Insurance is apparently going to send me.

Yes. Unemployment Insurance. Last week I got a $25 check and a notice saying the Feds had told the state Department of Economic Security that some of last year’s recipients were entitled to more payments than had been disbursed. No explanation of why, or of why I should be among those recipients when, say, La Maya was not so blessed. But apparently they’re going to send about a half-dozen checks. These also represent 2009 income, UI for the furlough days GDU inflicted on us in the first six months of that year.

Well. There’s no way of getting DES to fill out and send a Form SS-31. You can’t reach them on the phone—they don’t answer telephone calls, and if you manage to get through to an answering machine, they don’t return calls. They’ve barricaded the employees behind locked doors and they don’t let the public in. So how exactly to communicate to Social Security that this little chunk of illicit income—made so because it racks up still more dollars above and beyond the permitted $14,160 earned income—represents 2009  money remained to be seen.

After sitting around for an hour or so, I got to speak with a live human being, a very nice gentleman who seemed (as they all do) pretty knowledgeable.

He said that even though the amount I’ll earn as a result of taking on another class this fall will exceed the amount of a monthly benefits check, they will not withhold more than one check. So I’m only out the cash for October, not for October and November. In January, they’ll bill me for the small amount left to pay up. The missing $111 Medicare Part B premium, payable in October, will be extracted from the November check.

So, that’s not the disaster I feared.

He also pointed out that despite losing an entire month’s SS income in September, overall for 2010 I end up with more money than I would’ve had with full Social Security and only the income limit of $14,160. While that’s so, I noted, that doesn’t do me any good next month, when I need the money to live on.

Luckily, there’s an emergency fund to fall back on. But diddling it away on utility bills, gasoline, and food is not what I had in mind: that money is there to cover me if I get hurt or too sick to work. And we do know that at my age, the operative term there is not if but when.

Presumably by the middle of next semester—if the college gives me three sections in the spring semester—I’ll be able to replenish the $975 that will have to be consumed next month to meet basic expenses and the extra $111 engrossed from November’s income for October’s Medicare B payment.

It’ll all work out over the long term. It’s just annoying, because it puts the eefus on my goal of living within my monthly means. And it does bite into my emergency savings.

Meanwhile, the Social Security dude was able to enter the data from the Form 31 from the state while I was sitting there. He said that issue is now settled.

We shall see.

As for the weird burst of Unemployment Insurance, he said that UI is not regarded as earned income! And that issue is a nonissue.

So it goes. A couple of questions were clarified. It’s inconvenient and it’s going to make next month another straitened, penurious month, something I’m mightily tired of after three months without enough income to cover base expenses. But what the heck.

Not what I wanted to do with my afternoon. SDXB, who’s back in town for the nonce, had invited me over for lunch. That scheme was scotched. Tomorrow, maybe.

6 thoughts on “Wages of Sin: Update”

  1. I admire your desire to live within your means, and I understand that keeping a close eye on your finances can prevent costly mistakes. But I think your extremely short term view is causing you way more stress than is healthy, or necessary. Perhaps you need to take some of your emergency fund and put it into a “cash flow adjustment” fund to smooth over the short term short falls.

  2. @ Pat: That really is a good idea! As soon as I get a minute to focus on money matters again, I absolutely will consider how to do that.

    @ frugalscholar: Actually, in the Great Simplification that occurred after Canning Day, I got rid of a lot of those categories and closed several “piggy-bank” accounts. The S-corporation, legally, must have its own business account. And I really do need a separate set-aside for monthly self-escrows to cover the annual property tax, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and automobile registration bills. If that money’s not stashed in a designated account, it will get diddled away (because I diddle away anything I can easily get my hands on). So that leaves as questionable categories only the savings account that holds the monthly deposits toward future clothing and indulgences and the large cushion that underlies my regular cash-flow checking account.

    And I will say…that cushion is an elephant-sized manifestation of Bag Lady Syndrome. Last September, I had no idea whether I could live on a third of my salaried income or not. But I thought not, and so envisioned the credit union ecstatically collecting bounced-transaction fees right and left.

    Who would think you could live on a third of an income that most middle-class Americans regard as not enough? It ain’t easy, but it can be done. 😀

    It’s still hard for me to believe it can be done, and so I always feel on the edge of a precipice.

  3. What Pat said.

    I have tons of financial categories, but they are ALL on paper, not different bank accounts. Wouldn’t you be comfortable with just having a written budget so that you will know what is diddle away money and what is being saved for insurance?

    Just a thought.

  4. @ E. Murphy: Experience has shown that if I can get my hands on money easily, I will diddle it away with joy and elan.

    Also, my math is very poor. Even with the help of a calculator and an Excel spreadsheet, the risk of serious error is high. When money that must be kept someplace safe from my ministrations resides in a separate savings account, the likelihood that it will stay safe is a great deal higher. 😉

Comments are closed.